Dress me and my family for Egypt.

We’re leaving on March 22 for almost 2 weeks in Egypt. Flying into Cairo and going all the way down to Abu Simbel and then a Nile Cruise and train back and sometime in Alexandria as well. I’ve seen a lot of articles about clothing and what women should not wear but not much information on kids and men. I want us to be comfortable (going from Minnesota winter to a desert scene) but also appropriate so we don’t offend the locals and blend in as well as possible. So, a couple questions…

The youngest kids…a boy aged 8 and a girl who is 6 years old. I’ve read that sandals are a bad idea, but what about shorts and/or dresses that are knee-length on the kids? Sunscreen is a must, but what other things should we know?

The adults. My partner loves his athletic wear. T-shirts that wick and are synthetic so they don’t have to be ironed are his preferences. I tend to wear polos. Are these ok or do we risk offense? Also, I’d love to get some of those long garbs (dishdasha?) but would I be like a tourist wearing Lederhosen around Germany where it looks just silly? (And if so, where could I get one before I go?)

Now, the biggest problem. The 14 year old teenage girl. We’re having problems now getting her to dress appropriately when she’s not at school (where she has a uniform). A t-shirt or sweatshirt gets cut so it’s full-on cleavage. When we started looking at going to Egypt almost a year ago, we began talks with her about clothing choices and how they have to be very discrete. I’m not sure she understands the gravity of the situation and that we’re guests in a country where her preferences aren’t approved. So, what can we dress her in so she’s good to go?

(Any other Egypt tips are welcome too!)

No tips whatsoever, but that sounds like a lot of fun. Especially in March.

Have a good time, **stpauler.

Bandages. Been popular there for ages.

Kevlar vests? Sorry 'bout that. If you guys have to lay down the law with your teenager, do so. Monitor what she packs and don’t allow anything immodest – no ifs, ands, or, ahem, butts.

My wife and have I visited Egypt twice, once in February and once in August. In March, according to this BBC site on average conditions in Cairo, the average low is 52 and the average high is 75. So you picked a good time to go.

Our experience was that you don’t have to worry about dressing super-modestly. As a woman, you would probably feel uncomfortable wearing shorts. So will your husband, for that matter–men in the Middle East almost never wear shorts. But short-sleeved shirts are okay, although frankly a light long-sleeved shirt might be more comfortable given the temperatures.

A girl who has reached puberty will be held to the same standards as a woman. She will get looks (and probably comments) if she wears shorts, and I wouldn’t recommend cleavage-revealing shirts. So again, modest dress, but conservative dress is not required.

Egypt is in many ways a conservative society, but it should by no means be conflated with the Gulf states which are hyper-conservative about dress, especially for females. Bare arms and uncovered hair are really no big deal, especially if you are in Cairo or somewhere along the Nile.

No dressing tips besides “conservative”. One thing that jumps out at me from the OP, though is “partner”. From my own planning of a trip to Egypt with a coworker (she’s youngish and pleasant to look at, I’m me and male), apparently non married couples are frowned upon at hotels. You might want to find a couple of simple “wedding bands” for the two of you. If married, and partner is an alternate description, disregard the above.

I second the statement to avoid shorts. They’re not likely to cause trouble, in my experience, but may earn a few strange or disapproving looks. Short sleeved shirts however shouldn’t be a problem. I went and traveled around Cairo largely on my own (aside from my driver) and never had a problem with my standard jeans and T-shirt wardrobe (I’m a woman).

My experience is that the people in Egypt, and especially in Cairo, are extraordinarily used to tourists from all over the world*, and do not tend to foist their own standards on their visitors. They are a gracious, welcoming people, but also very eager to pressure you into buying a Persian rug, oily perfume, or papyrus art.

*If you ignore someone hawking their wares, they will start shouting their pitch in a wide variety of languages, hoping to find the one you understand. “Hola, senorita! Bonjour, mademoiselle! Gutentag fraulein!” It’s really rather amusing.

Light cotton pants like khakis. Short sleeve shirts okay for men.

Oh, and you need to inform yourself before you go as to what things cost (e.g., a taxi ride–and negotiate the price before you get in the taxi!) to avoid getting taken advantage of. A guidebook should be helpful in this regard. Egyptians will make you pay whatever they can get you to pay for services and souvenirs, so you have to haggle very hard. The key to haggling, of course, is being willing to walk away.

While we’re on the subject of other tips - be prepared for what I feel certain will be the most insane traffic experience in your life. The only way I was able to manage being a passenger was by reassuring myself that my driver had managed to live to what appeared to be his mid-60s. I swear, there is no experience on Earth like being on the road in Egypt, and I’ve been to Thailand (which I always thought was supposed to be worse). Do not expect American road rules (or even Egyptian road rules, for that matter) to apply.
By not apply, I mean, lanes are merely decorations. I saw one traffic light the entire time I was there, and no one paid any attention to it. Speed limits are merely suggestions. There is a unique set of Egyptian road ethics that will never make sense, but it all seems to work. I have forever left my mark on the back of the poor driver’s seat, and in the door handles, my flesh, etc. but I must say that during my visit, the one and only vehicular accident I saw was a truck loaded with sheetrock that had overturned. It’s scary, but if you can weather that traffic, I truly believe you can handle traffic anywhere.

And they will haggle hard. I am pretty tough against high pressure sales, but I’ve left shops feeling like I just abandoned a family of 43 to starve because I didn’t pay $1000.00 for a rug. He did eventually drop the price to $650 (which should tell you just how high they set their sights) before I finally told him I’d be back that day with my money just so I could escape.

There’s also a mentality that foreigners have lots of money. While it’s endearing the first few times, being swamped by Egyptian kids all demanding (not asking) for money, it gets a little old after a while.

If you can escape the tourist traps, there are great bargains to be enjoyed - one of the best meals of my life ended up costing me less than $50.00 for two people, for four courses and a couple of tokes on a shisha. I bought computer equipment (particularly flash cards for my camera and ink cartridges for my printer) at half the price I would find them here for. It’s just a matter of being on your toes and shopping where Egyptians would actually shop. If the only Egyptians in sight are the ones trying to sell you something, it’s almost a given that you’ll pay more than you should :wink:

All of that said, I did enjoy my trip to Egypt. I spent Christmas day riding a horse through the site of the Pyramids, and New Years Eve at an amusement park with all of five people in it. I met so many charming, gracious people who were fiercely proud of their heritage and culture. Definitely a trip of a lifetime.

I forgot about this part. Nobody is really going to care what kids this age are wearing, so I wouldn’t sweat it too much. Knee-length shorts and skirts are certainly okay. Sandals are bad in the sense that wearing them in Egypt will result in very dirty feet, but that’s the extent of the badness.

I don’t know if this is true in Egypt, but it was very true in Lebanon: people love kids, and are very affectionate with them. Strangers in restaurants would ask to hold our infant daughter, and even teenage boys would coo over her. Don’t be surprised if people fuss over your youngest, and I wouldn’t let it freak you out.

Who’s going to be the back of the camel?

Sorry.When I hear Egypt I think camel.

I travelled to Egypt at about the same age as your daughter; my sister was even younger, and my father was offered 1000 camels for each of us by a salesman. A joke I know, but we were definately regarded as women, not children, so your daughter is going to need to be careful in what she wears. Normally covering up knees and shoulders is suggested, as well as cleavage. Chances are you will only get unwanted attention if she doesn’t, nothing bad, but my experience in travelling in places like Egypt, Morocco and Turkey is that you get treated with a little more respect and hassled a little less if you are seen to be modestly dressed. Loose fitting linen or cotton shirts, skirts and trousers are comfy and keep you cool.

OT, but make sure you get all your shots, and bring a serious medical kit, with meds for gastro, cramping, diarrhea, as our whole family came down with Cairo Belly - it just comes with the territorry, but is easier to deal with if you’re prepared, and avoid things which may have come into contact with unclean water like salads, ice etc.

Have a great time, it’s an awesome place!

Yes, intestinal discomfort does come with the territory. Some doctors will give you a supply of an antibiotic before you go, so that if you come down with an intestinal bug you can treat it without delay. (Actually, when my dad used to visit us in Beirut, he would start taking Cipro a couple of days before coming. I know that this makes many health policy types cringe.)

Thanks all! We went to China last year and had the same warnings about the water and surprisingly, none of us got sick.

I was in Egypt in September of 2007, during the holy month of Ramadan. The trip I took sounds a lot like what you doing. Although we did not take a train. Are you going on a Cosmos tour by any chance?

I am a male, 51; I went with my mother, her brother and sister-in-law who were all over 70. I wore shorts most of the time, so did my mother.

There was only one child in of our group of about 60; an 8-9 year old boy, no teenagers. But I have some good news for your daughter, Egyptians appear to be so eager for dollars that they don’t pay much attention to how Westerners dress.

At the major tourist attractions: Sphinx, Luxor, Karnak and other places there were large numbers of American and European teenaged & adult females who dressed in short pants, short dresses, and very revealing tops. I was surprised [and pleased] by this, wasn’t sure if I would be able to wear shorts, much less females.

There were no problems with the women wearing bikinis at the hotel pools and beaches that we went to. Granted these were tourist hotels/resorts. Even our male Egyptian guide [who fasted during daylight hours as a good Muslim should] wore shorts at the hotel one night.

I am saying this because your daughter will be mad if she is told she can only take long pants and long sleeve shirts, only to see some European chick showing major cleavage and a whale tail. I would advise packing a variety of clothes if you can. Since you never know what the situation might be when you all get there.

Not to say Egyptians are not devout. I was also very surprised at how scrupulous they were about fasting during the daylight hours. AFAIK, our guide did not eat or drink at all during daylight hours. And I kinda wish he had several times, he was rather worn out at Luxor.

We saw almost no one breaking their fast during the day. We were at Khan-el-Khalili bazaar and watched diners wait quite patiently about 10 minutes, with their food on the table in front of them waiting for sunset so they could eat. Quite frankly, I don’t know how they did it.

It was also quite common to see young men reading prayer books. I saw very few Egyptian women without head scarves, and only a very, very few in burqas.

I have some friends who went to Egypt last year and used Memphis Tours and highly recommended them so that’s who we’re going through. We’ve set up our own schedule (which took a bit of back and forth tweaking, mostly because we tried to do too much in one trip). The tour is atypical as it will be just our family, a tour guide and a driver and that’s it which is really nice as we have the safety and security without having to sacrifice to the greater collective’s whims.*

*In case anyone was curious, this ran about 800 euros per person. Kids under 12 were charged half price. It included transportation in the country, entrance fees, meals, hotels, trains, and the cruise. (And if you’re really curious, we scored great deals on airfares by booking it ourselves. $450 from MSP to Amsterdam via Reykjavik on Iceland Air. We’ll have a day on each side in Amsterdam bookending the trip. And then $400 from AMS to Cairo and back.)

I just got reminded from another thread to give an update to this one.

Well first, the clothing issue.

My partner and I packed lots of pants and shirts and when we got there, we ended up not wearing the pants and stuck more to the shorts as most of our time was in the touristy areas where everyone was wearing shorts. (Knowing what we know now, we would have packed much less pants). We did buy gallabeahs but only wore them on the boat cruise for “dress-up” night.

The 14-year-old going on 24 wore pants at the beginning and then switched to longer capris for the rest of the trip. She wore t-shirts that weren’t her normal scissored-jobs and had the full neck intact and we didn’t have a problem. Except one time, she did get hasseled when we were getting out of a cab. She had capris and a t-shirt and a short-sleeved hoodie on and a man across the street was making a lot of cat calls. It was one of the times that we were really thankful for Cairo traffic. :slight_smile:

The two youngest (6 & 8) stayed in shorts and t-shirts for the most part (the youngest girl got a couple local dresses too).
As for the trip, as we stopped calling it a ‘vacation’ mid-way through, it was good and we’re glad we did it. This is a really, really long summary of the trip. It might sound a bit negative, but that’s not the intent. It was an exhausting trip and there were some realities that came up. (Grain of salt and all that)

We arrived at 8pm at night and were greeted by our tour guide from Memphis. We were really relieved as he escorted us first to the Banque Misr to buy visas and then through immigration. There weren’t any signs telling us where to go to buy visas and probably would have had to wait in line twice to get through, maybe three times since one side was less busy and was for the other airplanes bags. We got the bags, got out of the airport, hopped into a van and drove to the hotel for check-in.

The hotel in Cairo, more specifically in Heliopolis, was called the Baron Hotel. We thought it was a bit shabby, run-down, and past its prime but a place where we could just put our heads down at night without too much worry. The location was between the airport and downtown Cairo and had a nice 10 minute walk to a good restaurant that the hotel recommended called “Abou Shakra”. It turns out this is a chain throughout the middle east that serves some pretty good food at a good price. (The five of us ate for about $25). We ended up coming back again too.

At this point, I have to explain a little something. I’m a little neurotic about traveling and I had a list that was checked off of what I needed to pack. I also tried to trim down what I would normally bring by 50% since I knew that this trip was constantly on the move. Moreover, I like to be to the airport at that magical “2 hours before the plane takes off” time. My partner is the exact opposite of that, so he knows that when we’re going to fly somewhere, I’ll have a friend drop me off at the airport on my own. When he arrived at the airport, everyone ladened down with suitcase and rushing to the gate with 10 minutes to spare, I knew that he didn’t pack carefully.

The next morning, we have a 7am departure time for our journeys. It was my fault as I heard 8am and what was going to be hectic turned into madness as we all rushed to get dressed, get downstairs, eat as fast a breakfast we could, and pile into the van. An hour and a half later we got to the pyramids at Dahshur. We chose these as Frommer’s and Lonely Planet said that these were less visited pyramids and easier to go into as well. They were right, the two pyramids had just a handful of tourists out there so it was much easier to get pictures of just us there. (What’s a trip without great photo-ops?) A quick hike inside of the pyramid deep down into a room that didn’t have anything in it. Well, we could at least say that we have been inside of a pyramid.

We left Dahshur and headed back to Cairo with a stop at a “rug factory”. Now, our tour with Memphis is just the 5 of us, a tour guide, and a driver. Our tour guide turns and explains that the small village makes these rugs and that children start working at 6 years old making these rugs. Well, we get there and see the looms and learn how we are able to tell quality rugs (they have defects in them is how we do it). And are promptly brought up to the showroom and offered ice cold beverages as we mull over our decision on what to buy. We leave after using the bathroom and didn’t look back as the prices were on the high side ($150 US for a rug that was 1’x1’ made of silk…that was the bargained down price too).

Onward to Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza. Huge, amazing pyramids that were crawling with other tourists braving the noon heat with no shade. A short history lesson and it’s on to the camel ride to the smallest of the kings’ pyramids there. We heard horror stories of prices negotiated at the beginning of the ride being reconfigured before dismount is allowed. Luckily, Memphis took care of the payment and we were able to enjoy the ride worryfree…well except for the sheer height of the camels. Yikes! This ended up being one of the highlights of the trip and there’s something othertimely about taking these beasts of burden to these stone monuments.

Next up, a walk around the Sphinx and then a van ride to a “perfume factory”. We were grubby from the desert sand, which was compounded by the sweat from the 95 degree weather and a lot of hiking about. The last thing we wanted was to have an olfactory assault on a muggy hot day. This was far from a factory, there wasn’t even a pretense offered to show how it was made, it was just there for sale. Blah. So, 5 minutes later we get out to the van. Our tour guide says that up next is the papyrus factory. No thanks. The problem is we don’t have a hotel and we’re sitting in the van. Our train to Aswan doesn’t leave for another 7 hours. We ask if they can take us to Khan El Khalili market and a call to Memphis by our tour guide returns with the answer “Yes! At 50 egyptian pounts a head”. So, $50 US to take us there, which we decline and so the van, loaded with our luggage drops us off at a random hotel and we are told that they’ll be back at 7pm to take us to the train station.

Across a busy, busy street is a shopping mall and so after finding a kind local who knows how to navigate the traffic and helps us across, we get inside. It’s a very large mall, about 6 floors, with none of the escalators working. We’re happy to check all of the little stores and have a great time chatting with the shopkeepers. It’s got little toy stores where the kids each get a little something to keep 'em happy and an interesting amalgamation of western and conservative muslim clothing for sale. We decide to have a McDonald’s dinner since it’s right there and get a window seat onto the street. We watched what appeared to be a homeless child, shoeless, 4 years old, and no parent in sight walking around. He would approach people leaving the McDonald’s and snatch their drinks or fries from their hands and run off. He would then take a sip or a fry and then throw the rest on the ground. It wasn’t a pretty picture but something that we were in a way glad to have had the kids see. On the way out, I pulled some candy from my backpack and gave it to our kids and they handed them out to the kids on the street.

Our van picked us up soon after and we went to the train station and waited and waited and waited. The train to Aswan was a couple hours late and we were very glad to see it when it arrived. The five us were going first class which had 4 of us in two connecting cabins and the 5th sharing a cabin next door. A hot dinner was brought out about 20 minutes after the train got going and 30 minutes later, they offered to pull down our beds. The compartments were relatively quiet and came with a pillow and sheets. I popped a dramamine which helped me conk out in what ended up being an 11 hour train ride (apparently, it should have only been 8 hours). Breakfast was served (5 individually wrapped breads and “orange juice” which was just water with an orange segment dropped in it). Our new memphis tour guide was waiting for us at the train station and took us to our hotel, the freakin’ gorgeous Old Cataract Hotel. (This is where Agatha Christie wrote “Death on the Nile”. ) The rooms were spacious and we had great views of the nile and of Elephantine Island. We explored the hotel’s offerings for food which were expensive and didn’t offer kids’ menus so we took a taxi into town. We did some shopping in what turned out to be our favorite market and had lunch in town.

At the beginning of all of this, Memphis gave us a cell phone. If the tour guides needed to get a hold of us, or our family back home, we’d have a number to get a hold of. This was included in the price of the trip (820 Euros a piece, with the two kids under 12 counting only as one person). I get a call from our tour guide who says that we have to be back at the hotel at 2pm to take a tour. We checked our itinerary and had nothing planned, so we pressed further. Well, the tour we had planned for tomorrow wasn’t possible due to other things, so it was now or never. My partner was exhausted from the train and the previous day, so he and the kids decided to relax by the pool; I went on the tour. I’m glad I did. The driver, our tour guide, and I take the van up to a boat to get to the Temple of Philae. UNESCO moved this to a new island a quarter of a century ago and it’s amazing. I knew that these temples had hieroglyphics, I just didn’t know the amount. They went from top to bottom and all around. In some cases, the carvings were so detailed that they looked freshly made. After that, it’s a trip back over the low dam and onto the high dam. According to my tour guide, this sole dam provides enough electricity for all of Egypt with enough left over to sell to neighboring countries as well.

I get dropped off at the hotel and we’re told tomorrow’s itinerary. We’ll be getting a 2:45 wake-up call and we need to be in the lobby by 3:00 am with all of our bags as we’ll be checking out. This sucks. We really loved this hotel but the show must go on. We load our luggage, ourselves, and our to-go breakfasts into the van and go get in line for the armed convey for a 3 hour drive to Abu Simbel. We’re told to go to the bathroom beforehand as there’s going to be no stopping in the desert due to “pirates”. The convey takes off around 4am and back in Aswan is the last we see of the armed truck and pretty much the rest of the vans heading down there. We all drift in and out of sleep but waken up to watch the sun rise across the desert. It’s quite barren except for the occassional hill and the power lines that swing up and down running along the highway. Times like these and there’s such a peace afforded by traveling inside of a car that the womb is very comforting.

We arrive at the momunent around 7 am and see that we must have been passed by half of the convoy at some time and the other half is close behind us. The mob ascends on the gate and we pass our bags through the x-ray machine and walk down the man-made mountain to the other side with the two monuments of Abu Simbel. They’re impressive, but…well, I just saw the Temple of Philae yesterday. It wasn’t crowded, and yesterday didn’t require a really long car drive either. Abu Simbel ended up being one of those places where we all agreed that we can say we’ve been to*. *(But knowing inside, that we really didn’t think it was worth it). After seeing both places, it’s a quick snack, a bathroom break, and back in the van for another 3 hours back to Aswan.

We arrive and check into our boat, the M/S Mojito. Now, about a Nile cruise…well, we’re not cruise people, but it just seemed like the thing to do. We were the minority on the boat with the rest of the boat made up by a French tour group. The boat’s meals were set on a schedule and if you missed a meal, you were out of luck. It was all buffet style and at one point we were lucky the placards were in French so the children didn’t know that the chicken they were eating wasn’t exactly chicken. The hardest part for me was when they had a seafood buffet and everything except for the rolls had seafood in it. I’m allergic and not even the salads were safe for me. We were en route to our next city and so I had no options but the snickers bar in my backpack. The rooms were very nice and the boat had absolutely no wave action to make one feel seasick. The pool on the rooftop was not good however. The water’s temperature was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and there were two depths: 6 inches or 8 feet.

The cruise led us North down the Nile from Aswan with stops in Kom Ombo and Edfu. I enjoyed our trip to Edfu. We took horsedrawn carriages through the town center to the temple early in the morning and got a great view of local life. The juxtaposition in some things, like a photocopier on an extension cord in the front of the building being used or a man riding into town on a camel and talking on his cell phone… there was just a lot of charm in what may be considered mundane to the locals.

The cruise stopped next in Luxor and stayed there for the next two nights. So it become pretty much a hotel on the water. Cruise ships on the Nile are a bit interesting. They have a lobby in the center of the ship with a door on either side. The ship closest to land has a walkway out and they open the other door so other ships can attach themselves parallel and you walk through multiple lobbies to get to land or back to the ship. I was thankful that our side of the ship faced land as the rooms across the hall had the next ship’s windows right next to theirs.

Luxor was a nice town with temples seemingly everywhere. The next morning, we’re told is a 4am wake up call for the hot air balloons. We go out at night and have dinner off of the ship at a McDonald’s (yeah, I know, but we were really sick of the boat food) directly across from the Temple of Luxor. Ok, two things stand out about this McDonald’s. One is the sheer size of the food. It’s competing with the pharaohs. The cheeseburger was the size of the 8 year old’s head. If McDonald’s in the US served these sizes, Morgan Spurlock would have had a lot more to complain about. The second thing is a bit on the disgusting side. Well, a large meal can do things to a digestive tract and a trip to the bathroom was met with a distressing moment when after finishing up, a rude discovery is made where there is a lack of toilet paper. I was prepared in my backpack for this eventuality on this trip, but that was downstairs at our table. It was at this moment that I discovered the wonder of wonders, a faucet handle on the side of the toilet. After seeing that one, I noticed them everywhere in Egypt and alerted my partner on their presence too. We agreed that when we remodel the bathroom at home, we will be importing these toilets.

Back to Luxor, that night I was not feeling 100% and checked my temperature and found it over 101. My partner went out to the pharmacy and got me some over the counter antibiotics (I was pretty sure it was strep throat as I get it frequent enough) and I stayed on the boat and they went to the sound and light show at Karnac. He said that he expected something different. Lasers, smoke, dance music weren’t there. What was there was crisp clear speakers that spoke in completely understandable English with lights that lit up the part of the temple that was being talked about.

The next morning we got up at 4 am for the bus to take us to the hot air balloons. Well, we got our breakfasts from the boat to-go and got on the bus. We got off the bus about 6 blocks later and went down to a motor boat that crossed the Nile. The boat stopped and let us to get onto a van that took us to the hot air balloons. We thought a donkey would be involved soon. The balloons soared high above showing Luxor on one side of the Nile and the Valley of the Queens on the other. We lifted to a little over a 1000 meters before our descent from the calm skies.

We got back into the van, onto the boat, and then into our tour van to take us back to the side of the river we were just on. Kind of silly, but ok. We saw the Colossi of Memnon which were roped off…this was a bit of a rarity actually. Most everything was not just accessible, but unfortunately touchable. After this, we went to the Valley of the Kings. It was a scorcher of a day out and quite a bit busy. We skipped the extra charge to see Tut Ankh Amen’s tomb and saw three that were chosen by our tour guide. These were our first set of seeing hieroglyphics with the paintings so detailed on them. Most of these were behind plexiglass. Next, we went to Deir el-Bahri and pretty much took pictures, ran through it quickly and got back in the van. Something we did feel, after a while, 2pm sun with no shade combined with dry desert dirt, and seeing lots of temples, we got a bit burned out and they all started to blend into one. What once was special became a bit overdone. In retrospect, we might have cut out a temple or two but we didn’t know that coming in to this.

The next morning is our last on the boat and they’re kicking us off at 10am. Our train leaves at 6pm so we opt to just pay out of our own pocket for a hotel room in town. We are charged $15 US and after a bit of walking around and lunch, we return and take a nap.

This time, the train leaves on time from Luxor on back up to Cairo. I’m woken by the porter that it’s 10 minutes from the station. The kids have eaten breakfast and we de-train to our tour guide who takes us back to the Baron Hotel. We drop off our bags and head to Khan El Khalili market. Time to do some souvenir shopping. I find a spice vendor and score a lot of baggies of saffron for friends back at home (about 3 ounces was $5). There are a lot of dolls and statues made in China as well as knock-off handbags and watches. It’s Sunday, however, and a lot of the stores aren’t open. So, we hop in the cab and head back to Helipolis, it’s 60 pounds ($12) for an almost hour drive to City Stars shopping mall. This was a treat for the kids. It’s a big western mall a little bigger than the Mall of America. The 14 year old can do her fun shopping and there’s an amusement park with rides for the young uns. Prices are comparable to what we pay in Minnesota for most everything.

The next morning is another car trip. This time we’re driving to Alexandria. We were told that it’s a beautiful city and should be more than just a day trip and we wish we would have heeded that advice. The city is directly on the Mediterranean and the beaches are stunning. The four and a half hour drive there was a bit much and we’re happy to get and stretch our legs as we tour the catacombs and see the interesting mix of ancient Egyptian and Greek mixed into one place. After that, we drive over and see the Summer Palace (no tours inside however) and then on to the Citadel. A quick lunch and it’s back home for a 5 hour drive to the hotel. Ugh.

Driving is an interesting situation in this country. Highway speeds are occassionally interrupted with speedbumps for no reason. Most folks in the city drive with their headlights off (mostly in Aswan for that one). And cloverleafs on highways are bus stops with masses of people waiting on the actually road for a van to take them to their destination. Our tour guide got out of the van at one of these and left us with our driver as her home was in a different direction.

Our final full day in Egypt was in Cairo. We had the day to ourselves and headed back to Khan El Khalili to see the market in full motion. Last minute ditches for souvenirs were made while we bartered with the english speaking touts and we left with a bit of something for everyone. Using our well-worn Lonely Planet guide, I found a restaurant 2 miles from the hotel that seemed like a nice farewell to our experience. Le Chantilly was in the affluent area of Heliopolis and offered what seemed to be a very clean, very nice, and quite affordable version of swiss food.

Hi, Stpauler! I just found this thread. I’m really sorry I didn’t see it when you first posted; my wife is Egyptian and we just got back two nights ago from my sixth visit there. I have done many of the things you’ve done. We took our two kids, 9 and 12, on this last trip.

I just wanted to throw my $0.02 on your trip report. I think the clothing question is a moot point now that you’ve been there and seen how things are.

IMHO the gallabaya night on the boat is a scam. They really pitch it to you, and, oh, by the way, we happen to have gallabayas right here for you to purchase! And if you don’t want to buy, you can rent one for the evening for only half the purchase price! We have this kind of junk at home but it never occurred to us to pack any of it.

We always get our visas before going to avoid hassles on arrival. We live outside DC so go to the embassy, although you can go to a consulate, too. I think they’ll do it by mail as well. (In our case it’s a little easier since the ambassador’s cousin is married to my wife’s cousin; everybody’s related in Egypt :))

We have visited a rug factory. We raised concerns about child labor but they said it was better than having them work in the fields…We did it on our own, but in case you didn’t realize it, the tour guides get a commission on anything sold to their tour group. This is true of all the various factories you can visit.

It’s wonderful you stayed at the Old Cataract. I visited there 15 years ago just to look around, and it’s now closed for renovation.

I find it a little odd that you drove to Abu Simbel. I have been twice and flew from Aswan each time. It’s a 45-minute flight. I am surprised that you were not too impressed with Abu Simbel. I thought it was a real highlight. The statues of Ramses are stupendous, and the interior is quite elaborate. Even the story of how it was moved to take it out of the flooding caused by the High Dam is interesting.

Too bad about your experience with meals on the boat. I think if you had asked the staff they would have tried to accommodate you regarding the seafood. And what was the “chicken,” anyway?

You managed to avoid one interesting and colorful yet annoying facet of the cruise. As we slowed to pass through the lock near Esna, a horde of rowboats approached our boat trying to sell gallabayas and other cloth goods. They would throw stuff up wrapped in plastic bags for inspection and you would replace the goods with money and throw it back if you wanted to buy. The problem was if they caught a glimpse of you peering over the rail to see what was going on, they would throw something at you unsolicited.

I am surprised you even found two McDonald’s in Egypt. With so many other places to eat, not sure why you ended up there, but 'nuff said.

Many toilets in public areas as well as all the ones I have used in private homes have some sort of water attachment as you describe. Some have a sprayer right in the bowl, like a built-in bidet, and others have a hose as an accessory. This dates back to pre-plumbing times when a bowl of water was the preferred method of bathroom hygiene (use the left hand, please). It’s such an effective method I’m surprised it isn’t more widely adopted in the West.

My wife loves the sound & lights shows. I don’t. The one at Karnac is rather pedestrian but if you have to see one, go to the one at the Pyramids. Besides simple lighting as they use at Karnac, it also incorporates a slide show, and lasers that superimpose diagrams on the monuments or other moving illustrations.

I’ve not done the hot-air balloons and have never even seen them there. I have an abject fear of heights so probably wouldn’t do it, but if the cost is reasonable you probably found a delightful way to see the area.

“It was a scorcher of a day out…” You were there in the spring. It was about 110[sup]o[/sup]F when we were there last week.

“We skipped the extra charge to see Tut Ankh Amen’s tomb…” Good move. Most famous, least impressive.

“…saffron for friends back at home (about 3 ounces was $5).” I’ve never bought saffron there but are you sure it was real saffron? By weight, saffron is usually very expensive, starting around $40 per ounce. Prices in Egypt can be a bargain compared to the US but my eyes bugged out when I saw the price you paid.

I think adding Alexandria to your itinerary was overly ambitious. I haven’t been there but I agree a day trip wouldn’t do it justice. It’s more of a resort for the Cairenes than a great tourist destination, though. I would recommend a Red Sea resort like Hurghada instead (or Sharm El Sheikh, much better but farther from Cairo).

I have driven myself in Cairo but have been driven all over the place and driving is chaotic at best. It’s sometimes a big game of chicken, with pedestrians randomly crossing major thoroughfares where speeds hit 50 MPH.